Article Published: Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 12:00:00 AM MST
It's not easy having green
By Kelly Kennedy, Special to The Denver Post
Those poor rich people. Add a couple zeros to the bank account, and the green stuff can create
a different set of troubles; loads of cash, loads of problems.
Particularly for those long-suffering heirs out there, saddled with the knowledge that they never
earned a dime themselves. Swimming in securities; drowning in insecurities.
It's true, they say. Everyone fantasizes about winning the lottery or being left an inheritance, and
they agree it's not all bad. But money can bring isolation, guilt and low self-esteem.
In previous eras, wealth, and the lessons surrounding it, were passed down through the
generations. But in the age of dotcoms and Enron, money often comes without instructions.
The rich - defined by High-Net-Worth Network in Boston as a wealthy person with at least $1
million in investible assets, not including a home - say they want help, and they're getting it.
Wealthy people can join support groups, read books analyzing their problems, or enroll in
programs designed to help them cope.
For example, Naropa University's Marpa Center for Business and Economics in Boulder is
creating a year-long "Wisdom and Wealth" curriculum to help people deal with the emotional,
financial and spiritual aspects of having money - inherited, earned or windfall. The initiative is
scheduled to start by spring 2004.
Naropa's program may be an answered prayer for the ultra rich who say hefty assets don't
necessarily translate into lasting happiness. Some worry whether their friends like them for their
personality or their trust fund. They wonder if they deserve a vast fortune when so many who
suffer can't create even a tiny nest egg.
And, as people who never live month-to-month and agonize over utility bills, rent or mortgage
payments, the sense of identity and responsibility that most people gain from working for a living
can be lost to the rich.
"We want to provide an educational and transformational environment for people who want to
become more conscious," says Mark Wilding, director of the Marpa Center. "We don't feel
there is much out there."
The program will provide long-term mentoring and self-esteem counseling, as well as guides for
using money in ways that suit each person's needs and values. Often, Wilding says, people
haphazardly spend money based on impulse or guilt rather than in a way that can be helpful or
"It begins with the basic idea of knowing who you are - to honestly assess yourself and move
into a path or journey to become more aligned with those ways," he says. "We don't need to
teach people the values or proper ways of doing things. That comes from inside."
About a year ago, a Boulder philanthropist provided the Marpa Center with a grant to develop
"He came to Naropa and said he wanted to work together on this," Wilding says of the
philanthropist, who wants to remain anonymous. "There doesn't seem to be a transformational
program out there."
As interest grows in this issue, people have developed several national support groups - such as
More Than Money, The Philanthropic Initiative, the Threshold Foundation and Worth Living -
with hundreds of members, Wilding says.
"I would say there are thousands of people who are dealing with these issues," he says.
Barbara Blouin of Nova Scotia is one of them. After inheriting wealth, she began researching the
lives of the rich, and her study culminated in the book "The Legacy of Inherited Wealth:
Interviews with Heirs (Trio Press, $19.95). She also founded the Inheritance Project - an
organization that helps those who grow up wealthy.
Blouin pondered the subject for years, but it took shape when she met two other women with
"I wanted to see what other people had gone through," she says. "I felt very isolated and that I
couldn't talk about it because it would be shameful. I was surprised by how much people had in
common - very different outcomes, though."
The two biggest issues she saw while researching the book were the inability of people to "grow
up" and the difficulty they had in relating to people who are not rich.
"With friends and partners, unless you hang out with people who are rich, there's this inequality,"
she says. "You want to go out for a nice dinner, but your friend can't afford it, so you pay for it.
There's just a lot of awkwardness. Friends can use you and often do."
The lifestyle of the well-heeled can be more limiting than liberating, says Bernice Hill, a Jungian
analyst and faculty member at Naropa University. She is working on a book called "The Spiritual
Warrior: a Jungian Perspective on Money and Wealth."
"Those with money can feel imprisoned, despite the paradox of having the means for greater
degrees of freedom and choice," she says. "My experience with people of wealth - and I'm not
one of them - is they are often quite guarded. Some have been deeply hurt in relationships. Some
are very used to eating at the top of the food chain and lose what poorer folk often have: a deep
and exquisite appreciation for simple, humble experiences."
Wealth also can lead to difficult monetary decisions. For example, Blouin's biological son
inherited a trust fund from his grandfather, but her adopted stepson did not. She had to decide
how to be fair to both sons, as well as helping them not fall into some common traps.
She told her oldest son the trust would go toward his education - that she would not pay for it.
He chose Harvard. She gave her stepson $10,000, no strings attached, and he also attended
fine-arts programs in France and Ireland before opting to support himself by selling snowboards
She also worries about her own expenditures.
"I tend to be a very empathetic person," she says. "Whenever I hear about bad financial
situations, I feel bad and I want to help."
That's why a business piece will be added to Naropa's Wisdom and Wealth program, taught by
Richard Wagner of Denver. He has spent 20 years working as a financial adviser, and serves on
the Sudden Money Institute board of directors in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. The institute
provides counseling, education and financial advising for people whose finances suddenly
increase, such as by winning the lottery.
"A lot of them don't know help is out there," says Wagner. "There's a lot of dependence on
family - they don't realize they have their own power."
The wealthy face multitudes of stereotypes - even from the people designated to help them.
"Professional advisers often have a hard time sympathizing with these problems," he says.
"Unless you have $5 (million) to $10 million, it's hard to understand."
Wagner says each of these people is an individual with personal goals and issues, and that's
where the focus must go. And, contrary to the fantasies of the non-rich, "money and materialism
have nothing to do with each other."
"You can have $100 million and still be a bum," he says. "You can have $100 million worth of
stuff and still be broke. What is the function of wealth in society? What is their role and how do
they fit in?"
Blouin began working with these issues when she started her book a decade ago.
"That was my therapy," she says. "Before, I didn't talk about my money. I didn't talk to my kids
about money. We call it 'coming out."'